A Christian View of Men and Things - by Dr. C. Matthew McMahonIntroduction to the Writings of Dr. Gordon Clark - Apologetics
Today, many Christians are turning back to the puritans to, “walk in the old paths,” of God’s word, and to continue to proclaim old truth that glorifies Jesus Christ. There is no new theology. In our electronic age, more and more people are looking to add electronic books (ePubs, mobi and PDF formats) to their library – books from the Reformers and Puritans – in order to become a “digital puritan” themselves. Take a moment to visit Puritan Publications (click the banner below) to find the biggest selection of rare puritan works updated in modern English in both print form and in multiple electronic forms. There are new books published every month. All proceeds go to support A Puritan’s Mind.
The following article is a summary of the book, “A Christian View of Men and Things”.
Chapter 1: Introduction
The idea of God does not dominate the culture of the 21st century. People have other things to do, or so they think. Western civilization was built on secular philosophical ideas and the repudiation of a theistic framework for life. Theism needs to be resurrected in philosophical circles. It needs an application to all phases of learning for, in reality, it permeates all phases of learning in every discipline. Theism actually gives life the meaning life needs.
Philosophy is an act of worship. As one contemplates and utilizes the faculties he has been given by God to understand and employ the manner in which men know about “things”, this is a faithful use of the intellect, and is wholehearted worship in the highest degree – for men were created to contemplate the Creator.
In searching for answers in terms of ultimate reality, philosophy, submerged in a secular culture, attempts to answer questions like “What is the best kind of government?” and “Where is history taking us?” and “Is civilization on the verge of collapse?” and “Has God revealed any answer, if in fact, there is a God?” Then, one must traverse the philosophical chasm of ethics. “What is the purpose of life, and does life have value?” “What is value?” “How does one determine the value of anything?” Philosophically speaking, these are important issues for the culture in which the 21st century has emerged. The method, by which one answers these questions and others like them, is critical. Without beginning with a rational, logical method, the answers will tend to form the fabric of a skepticism and irrationality that pervades the counter culture to Christian thought.
When Christians begin to philosophize about the world, and they try to answer the questions posed above intelligently, some feel that proving God right at the outset is the proper beginning point. However, it may be more helpful to lay down the laws of thought itself, such as the law of non-contradiction, as a starting point, before any further thought can actually begin. For example, Skepticism says that truth is impossible to obtain. But, the moment this is stated, if one continues to follow the laws of logic, then truth has already been attained. The reality that “truth cannot be attained” as skepticism teaches is actually a truth in itself (even though it is “truth” according to skepticism – which is ultimately false.) In the skeptic’s worldview, they admit defeat the moment they say anything. A non-contradictory system of truth is what the world needs, and what the world should accept.
Chapter 2: The Philosophy of History
One of the best ways to begin philosophizing about ultimate realities is to consider studying history. A proper philosophy of history helps the student realize how ideas formed and how those ideas influenced the surge of various governmental, ethical and social norms that still thrive today.
Hegel was the first in modern times to look at history in all it scope. His student, Karl Marx, said that history is not a haphazard series of events. Rather, nations, because of economic pressure, replace one another. There is a definite cause that is built in this pressure and this is the reason nations supplant one another. But this cannot explain values, ethics, suited governments, and the like. Some turn to progress. Medieval times gave way to the eighteenth century of progress. Science will progress further and dominate the globe. Progress, not economic pressure, some say, will give history its forward motion. Supernatural days of judgment have no “practical” or “ethical” affect on the atheistic scientific community in this way. It seems the study of facts and the publishing of those facts is what causes history to progress – according to the scientists. Yet, since scientific knowledge is instrumental, since it can as easily produce good or evil, it cannot guarantee progress. For example, the observable material of biology does not prove that mankind is the goal of evolution or is “better” than any other species of animal. The only way that the science teacher in any classroom can say “evolution is good” is to superimpose some other ethical system, not found by science, onto that idea. Science never creates value, it only reports a limited amount of facts that can never substantiate anything universal.
Another view of where history is going is to simply say “nowhere.” Is this satisfactory at all? To deny that history has a goal empties the word “progress” of any meaning whatsoever. If all that history demonstrates is “aimless change” in an undetermined direction, then this cannot be called “progress” in any sense of the term. If life, in and of itself, has no direction, no goal, no determinate reality, then happiness should not be desirable at all. It simply would not matter. To give history meaning through science is an impossibility in every way. Empirical history of any kind can never determine what is good and what is not good. It is inherently impossible to come up with an empirical history, for there is no scientist, or collective group of scientists, that are inherently omniscient. Only an omniscient empiricism would be able to give a detailed account of “how” the universe works. And it is not even the “how” that philosophers are necessarily after, but the “why.” On this note, empiricism fails miserably.
Another problem that arises is when to make shifts in societies as history progresses. One cannot find a rule or line by which to divide one age from another. That is guesswork at its best. The historian cannot look into any year and see markers or signs that say “leaving this society and civilization for another.” Some attempt to define these lines by saying that society is the result of adversity, and that ease in life is unproductive to move from one society to another. This is growth. But what “is” growth? This is not defined. So others attempt to add in an influence in society that aids growth, or attempt to give meaning to growth, and these are the mystics, or super humans who teach others to be like them and improve society. Their creative personalities are impelled to recreate ordinary men in their own image. If this happens, then value is assigned to growth, and that, in and of itself, gives meaning to progress in history. However, it does no such thing. Civilizations have come and gone. Men have decided to do one thing over another. Why did they decide to do “this or that?” Progress, in this light, does not give the answer. Have these philosophers overlooked or minimized the possibility that civilizations are erected and then die because of moral deterioration? Would it not be helpful to the historian to consider events such as Roman slavery, the Spanish Inquisition and the Thirty Years War as ugly commentaries on man?
Physical brutality is often a sign of the eminent collapse of a civilization. This does not point towards progress but toward destruction. How many wars have been fought with or by America? Ethical deterioration results in many ways as resurging ideals attempt to rebuild the country in a more liberal framework as a result. America is a very good example. Socialistic coercion and the destruction of freedom in the United States are following the more advanced programs of the European nations (and they are in bad socialistic shape). Taxation is becoming legalized theft. The public school systems are being used as propaganda agencies for reactionary totalitarianism. The family corpus is being ripped apart by atheistic teachings, pressures, and influences. Immorality in every sector is overwhelming. For example, eighty percent of the information on the Internet is pornographic. When the citizens of a nation are immoral, it is not surprising that the government becomes immoral. But none of this gives history any significance.
One must make a distinction between historians who observe and collect a limited number of facts, and the true significance that history has on morals and ethics, not to mention ultimate reality. Men like Karl Marx and Bertrand Russell give history no significance, and humanity no significance, at all. Life is meaningless. The best one can do (without actually defining the word “best”) is to shoot himself in the head and to end his meaningless life rather quickly (which neither Mark or Russell did strangely enough). One must come up with an answer to the question “What must be true if history and humanity are to be meaningful?”
In contrast to secular philosophy Christianity has always applied a huge value to history. Jesus Christ is part of the actual history of the world, and His miraculous birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension are key points to the entire forward motion of progress of the world and all human beings who have lived in this world. Both logically and historically, Christianity has a philosophy of history. Christianity may be defined as “simply what the bible teaches.” And this Christian philosophy that emerges from the Bible will be very different in determining what purpose life and history has in contradistinction to secular philosophy that cannot provide any real answers on ultimate reality.
Since God controls history, history has meaning. God will bring this “history” to an end someday where the law God gave men to live by will judge everyone. God not only controls history, but He also acts in history and sent His one and only Son to come and redeem a portion of fallen humanity from sin and hell. This gives history meaning. It is objective history. But this does not prove history has meaning, rather, it simply asserts that it does. Proving it will come in a few minutes with other things to consider. At this point, one is left with a choice. Is secular history’s choice better (i.e. should one shoot himself in the head right now) or does Christianity offer a better choice (God’s plan of love, judgment, salvation-history and sovereign rule of Jesus Christ)?
Chapter 3: The Philosophy of Politics
Politics is a subdivision of history. History, politics and ethics are all interrelated. It presses one to ask the question, “What form of the state is best?” This is a philosophical question about history in a given time period. One must have a philosophy of politics and to suppose that politics could be debated in the realm of philosophy demonstrates that there is a set philosophy of politics to determine. So political philosophy must aim to say what form of government is better than another. Facts cannot answer this question. One cannot tally up historical facts about a political system to determine the value of that system. A limited number of facts do not determine the moral value of those facts as if listing them would somehow make the chiasmic leap from data to ethics. It does not follow that what is believed to be the ideal is in fact the ideal. Communistic countries still think communism is good, when it is in fact destructive and oppressive in the hands of sinful men. Hitler thought killing people for world conquest was good. Stalin did so as well. So were can a person turn for a good opinion on these things?
One philosopher (Spengler) explicitly states that man does no exist, but only a collective of men (something out of Star Trek’s “Borg Colony?”). Men are important, thus government of those men are important, thus the collective government is important. But which government is best? Aristotle said that citizens should be molded to suit the form of government under which he lives, and that parents are not to be permitted to teach their children. Private schools, then, would be illegal and everybody would be indoctrinated by the State Board of Education. This is totalitarianism. Plato was a communist in his thoughts, and Aristotle was a fascist. So, who will improve the moral of the government officials? Really, the state cannot go beyond the preservation of life, liberty and possessions. Otherwise political philosophy would have considered Hitler as a viable thought-leader and educator of the masses.
Utilitarianism does not work either. The greatest good of the greatest number obviously cannot be ascertained without first determining the good of one man. One must become micromanaging before macro managing. What justifies coercion on the part of the state? Does “force” create morality simply because the utilitarian state says one must consider the greatest good for the masses first? One must explain by what right the majority coerces the minority. Is it that unanimous agreement creates a public body, a city, or state? If this is true, then governmental coercion is an impossibility in every way. If decisions were made (and they are not) without the majority consensus of every citizen every time, then how can it be said it is always right and always tends to the welfare of each citizen? If men have natural rights, did they, would they, and could they alienate them? If unanimous action is required to establish a legitimate government, then the United States has never had a legitimate government. No actual government can be justified on the basis of an initial unanimous vote. If this kind of governmental structure (formulated by Rousseau) is to be followed, then again, men should look to Hitler and Stalin for advice on dealing with the masses and the minorities. One cannot possibly follow the totalitarianism of Aristotle and Rousseau on these matters. All non-theistic governmental structures assume (fallaciously) that man is normal, and not fallen (not sinful). This mistake has cost the world many governments rising and falling.
If, though, one were to add into the equation on political history and philosophy the concept of God, then this “God” at any level would have some impact on a philosophy of politics. In the Christian scheme, the magistrate gains his authority by God. Because men are abnormal, and not “ok” because they are sinful, God institutes governments for the good of the people. The sword regulates life, liberty and possessions. God has placed the state there for the good of the people. Now politics has meaning and significance because God gives it significance. Government is not a natural institution like the family. There was no dominion given to Adam over other men (except that Adam was given dominion over the woman – but that relates to family, not politics). The state is actually a partial punishment for the sin of Adam now imputed to all men. God then dictates the rights of the state and how it applies to the people. Unless the rights of the government are given and limited by God, there is no systematic ground between anarchy and dictatorship. If governments overstepped their boundaries, the Christian has every right to stand up and oppose that government. Christians know that governments are sinful, and that power corrupts those in power to take more than they should. Civil disobedience is not condemned by Scripture but regulated by it,. Being in subjection to authority, as Paul states in Romans 13, is not meant to deter Christians from standing upon morality and censuring the extended arm of the state. Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and Daniel opposed the state when it went too far in requiring pagan worship. Voting was never setup to determine what is good or what is not good. God sets those boundaries and people are to adhere to them. When this is misused, the people give too much power over to the government. This is sin.
Chapter 4: Ethics
It is impossible to come up with a satisfactory political philosophy without first trying to pinpoint what is good and what is evil. In other words, without knowing what “good” is, how could one, or a collective group of people, decide what is “good?” Science attempts to determine what is good. Scientists are out of their league when they attempt to define laws and explain life by physio-chemical law. The psychology of life is determined by one’s religion and ethics, not as a result of observational science.
Ethics begins by asking, “What is right and wrong?” This might sound like a good starting point, but one must ask “where does everyone agree as to what is right and what is wrong?” This is a problem. Everybody does not agree on what is right and wrong. Many people will say theft is wrong. But what is theft? Do the American people think the American Government is involved in too much taxation and is this theft? Is it theft when someone is idle at work for five minutes? Is theft when a man rips off a woman’s handbag on the street? What is theft? What is right and what is wrong?
Teleological ethics attempts to define right and wrong by the end or ultimate result. An act is virtuous whether or not the consequences are good. But the moral value of an act cannot ever be judged good or bad by its outcome. Is rape good because the rapist is satisfied in the end? Who would be stupid enough to assert this kind of ethics? This basically turns into a type of hedonism (more formally called Egoism) in which pleasure is the highest good of the individual. But which individual and which pleasure? Or, on the other end of the spectrum – the end justifies the means. Again, we turn to Hitler and Ghangis Kahn and ask if this is really so. Kant then attempted to instill the categorical method. He erroneously substituted logical analysis of determining morals for a calculation of consequences. If the categorical imperative is well founded, suicide as its consequence must be accepted as a virtue. Then why are not all Kantians dead?
Christianity alone escapes the foolish conundrums of a secular philosophy of ethics. Biblical theism depends on the revelation God has given as the mode for determining what is right and wrong. Even reward and punishment for doing or not doing is legitimate motivation for following the law. Christianity escapes the difficulties and the futilities of other systems. It gives specific guidance in the actual situation in life based on God’s holiness. Every action is a duty before God and is to be done with the highest moral integrity as mimicking His holy character. This gives a philosophy of ethics substance, reason and significance.
Chapter 5: Science
Theism gives coherence to history, politics and ethics where naturalism does not. Naturalism is the god of science. Theism demonstrates praise and respect to God who furnishes men with knowledge, reason and law, where Science receives its praise and respect by reason of the nuclear missile, bacteriological warfare, and missions to mars.
The scientist attempts to rid himself of all faiths and beliefs of any kind. He either knows something or he does not know something. There is no need for conjecture in his mind about anything possible. He wants facts. The goal of science is to interpret the universe. This is an interesting notation since no scientist, at any time, will ever visit the entire universe, and understand omnisciently everything about it in order to furnish humankind with a complete interpretation of the universe. However, this scientific method is the gateway of the whole region of knowledge, according to the scientist. But what experiment, what evidence is sufficient to prove that science is the sole gateway to all knowledge? It is a “proven scientific fact” that all scientific laws have been revised over and over again to suit new information. The problem arises whether there is any fact that is not a theory. Actually, scientifically speaking, there are no hard facts in science because everything is based on limited information, and that means everything is theory – it cannot be otherwise unless the scientist has all the fact of evey possible scenario for every situation. The scientist wants to have mathematical accuracy, but when he cannot discover this mathematical certainty he makes it up. Every theorem revolves around a plus or minus, or possibility, of a starting point. In that reality alone no scientific fact is actually a fact at all. Not true line is ever begun at a starting point that is equally perfect. It is all approximation. Scientific laws are never discovered, they are simply chosen. The fallacy of asserting the consequence is invalid whenever used. But it is precisely this fallacy that is used in every case of scientific verification.
Some scientists, in order to escape this conundrum, attempt to create a mechanistic universe that furnishes them with information that is constant as an objective truth. Unfortunately, since they have no “book” that describes this mechanistic universe, then it will be impossible, again, to furnish mankind with universal laws. You must have universal laws in order to furnish them. Even the opposite of indeterminism is equally invalid as a system because it cannot determine the truth and empties facts of all moral and ultimate significance. One turns back to the categorical imperative and wonders why human beings just do not start shooting themselves in the head!
It sometimes escapes science to determine the purpose of science. They are attempting to furnish mankind with facts. This they cannot do because everything they do is based on approximation and limited knowledge. No scientific observational proof can be given for the uniformity of nature, or arriving at any truth whatsoever. So why does science exist? Science depends on ethics and history – and it has been demonstrated thus far that history, politics and ethics depend on theism. Without the objective truth of a Creator, then science is meaningless.
Chapter 6: Religion
A solution for the meaning of history, ethics, politics and science is imbedded in religion. Or is it? What method will one choose to determine which religion is best? There are more religions today than there ever have been in the history of the world. Experience cannot be the guide by which method is chosen to determine religion in general. The desire to live, for example, is as equally experimental in its basis as a desire to commit suicide. Which shall one choose? One cannot go to a creed to define religion. There are many creeds and confession in many religions. Again, which one should be chosen over another? Can one religion claim exclusivity?
It should be asked, “Is God essential to religion?” Buddhists do not believe in God but it is a religion. Is God essential then to a religious view? The terms “God” and “religion” need to be defined before one chooses whether God should be part of a religion or which religion is the best. The problem lies in the ability to prove the existence of a source of values. Can God be known?
In order for God to be known, He must reveal Himself. God has revealed Himself in both the creation of the world (which His qualities are seen) but more specially in the Word of God. But this begs the question. One cannot simply assert that the Bible is the Word of God without using tools to determine how it is the Word of God and why it is the Word of God. Propositions must inform men about reality. Propositions can only do this if the laws of logic are held. Can revealed proposition be the criterion of truth? One would have to make a distinction as to whether the Spirit of God was speaking or the devil was speaking. How can one know he is not deceived?
Consistency is a test of truth. Is there an evidence on which to postulate a harmony of all human values, ideals and purposes? If naturalism cannot explain the existence of good and evil, of ideals, values, likes, and dislikes, (and it cannot) one must examine the theistic position carefully. Theism is then broken into two arenas, limited “gods” like Zeus and the deity of open theism who are bound in certain ways according to the derives of human thinking, and the omnipotent God who is the Creator and Ruler of the universe as described in His revealed Word. But how can one know that one is better than the other. For this, finally, epistemology must be considered.
Chapter 7: Epistemology
The controlling question of all of philosophy is “How do you know?” If naturalism is right, then opinion rules and each individual determines on their own what they like or dislike, what is true, what is false, what is right and what is wrong. But this does not answer the question posed. It simply ignores it. Everyone cannot be right in the manner in which they think they know things. Sensations may deceive. Reality may be a hallucination. Perception is only in the eye of the beholder, just like beauty. But if everybody is right in whatever he thinks, then Plato is right when he believes that Protagoras is wrong, and Protagoras is right as well.
One cannot turn to probability to determine truth. The truth must be had first before probability can sneak into play. Science then cannot furnish anyone with answers epistemologically. Or, one can try relativism – what is right for you or known to you is not necessary right for me or known to me. Statements are then only true in a given culture. What someone believes in America may not be right for someone in Germany. Theodore Roosevelt is right in wanting to crush Hitler, and Hitler is right in wanting to kill the Jews, or any other lower life form he disregarded. However, an absolutist relativism is a self-contradiction. If it is true, it is false.
Instead, one must follow the laws of logic, such as the law of non-contradiction. Logic is not affected by sin. Even if everyone violated the laws of logic (and they do everyday in their naturalistic worlds) that does not mean that the laws themselves are illogical or inconsistent. There are innate ideas placed in the mind that allow reason to take place. These tools comprise the laws of logic. Empiricism does not count here. Empiricism attempts to form ideas out of sensations with physical objects, but they do not rely on objective truth to attain moral value to anything. So naturalism on all fronts in this respect fails miserably at assigning ultimate reality to anything. Time and space are now experience, yet they are real. The idea of “a unit” is not extracted from sense experience. It is innate. A boy can count marbles only after he has the ability to count numbers and understand numbers. Arithmetic is not abstracted from sense experience. Equally, the validity of syllogistic reasoning can never be based on experience.
Kant attempted to intervene in rescuing rationalism and empiricism with a middle form of knowledge in categories that Aristotle and then Thomas Aquinas propagated. For Kant, the human mind thinks as it does because it cannot think otherwise. These innate ideas allow men to think, but they do not allow him to reach beyond his own world. Kant really could not make up his mind in determining whether his categories (that he made up) were innate or whether they were part of his refabricated empirical system. Kant’s categories do not prove men with the necessary tools to epistemologically conclude on ultimate truth at all.
The theistic worldview is the only space left to turn. Truth is not individual, but universal. To speak of truth as changing is to misuse language and violate the laws of logic. God has given men universal truths to abide by and is the cause for all epistemological reality. The important contrast at this point is not between faith and knowledge, but between what is true and false. Truth and error are the hinge on which epistemology swings. Acts 17:28 states, “’In him we live and move and have our being.” In God men live, and God in His elect works in them the truth as Philippians 2:12-13 states, “ Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
Christian theism is consistent in every area of philosophy (history, politics, ethics, science, religion and epistemology) where other systems such as naturalism, relativism, empiricism, the scientific method, the philosophy of progress, Teleological or Ateolological ethics, Skepticism, Apriorism, and the like, are clearly not. There are choices to be made and people will choose to live in one of these areas, whether knowingly or unknowingly (a happy inconsistency or a purposed atheism). Because of sin, most do not choose that which is self-consistent, and instead tend towards a “happy” contradiction. These people think if they simply disregard Christian theism, it will somehow go away. They forget that there is a day of judgment when everything will be called into account.